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The Unimpeachable Songs Of Bobby Womack

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Bobby Womack Bobby Womack
Bobby Womack
Bobby Womack
1944 - 2014
vocalist
’s death is a huge loss. There are other soul singers and songwriters who ranked higher in the pantheon because they’re considered auteurs: Marvin Gaye, obviously, and Curtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield
1942 - 1999
composer/conductor
, and Sly Stone. But Womack belongs among them, now and forever. He started out with his brothers in Cleveland, in a family gospel act; first hit the charts as a teen after the group, renamed the Valentinos, was discovered by Sam Cooke
Sam Cooke
Sam Cooke
1931 - 1964
vocalist
; wrote that first hit, “Lookin’ for a Love”; also wrote one of the early classics of the rock-and-roll era (“It’s All Over Now,” famously covered by the Rolling Stones); became an in-deman}}d session guitarist (for Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin

vocalist
and others) and songwriter (for Wilson Pickett and others); went solo; stayed solo; released a string of albums through the early seventies that combined his increasingly sophisticated compositions, his profoundly soulful covers of other people’s hits, and long between-song monologues; co-wrote “Breezin’,” later for George Benson
George Benson
George Benson
b.1943
guitar
; continued to write, record, and tour; became an elder statesman; appeared on the Gorillaz’s “Plastic Beach”; had a comeback record produced by Damon Albarn; was diagnosed with cancer; beat cancer; was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; and, finally, Friday, left the earth a far better place than he had found it.

The songs are unimpeachable: “Harry Hippie,” “Across 110th Street,” “Understanding,” “Communication,” “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha,” “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” “You’re Welcome, Stop On By.” The message was located right near the heart of what we think of as soul music: love and struggle, hard work, flashes of rueful humor. The emotion conveyed by his vocals was bottomless. There’s no way to do justice to a sixty-year career in a single post, except by urging everyone to go back to the beginning. Start with “Lookin’ for a Love” and go forward from there, song by song. You will pass these two along the way: Womack’s cover of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and the title song to his 1971 album “Communication.”


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